Imagine being able to get the full Greek island experience without having to endure a multiple-hour journey to get to the Aegean sea that will cost you time and money.
Well, this dream doesn’t need to belong to the realm of imagination, as the Saronic Islands offer their visitors exactly that: all the advantages of a Greek island and the additional benefit of being in such close proximity to Athens that they can serve as a 2-day or even day-trip destination!
When it comes to holidays, convenience is everything! Therefore, If the clock is ticking and the days you have to spend in Greece are limited, choosing one of the Saronic islands as your holiday destination is the smartest choice you can make.
Whether you choose to visit Aegina, Poros, Hydra, Spetses, or Methana, you’ll be met with beauty and ease; what more can you want?
And if you need more convincing that the Saronic islands combine the best elements of every destination, it only takes the islands of Hydra and Spetses to seal the deal. Both of those islands are remarkably scenic, with cobbled alleys and old stone houses dominating the setting, and don’t require a car; you can go everywhere on foot or by taking a local taxi!
Aegina is a personal favorite, with its authentic Greek island ambiance fooling everyone into thinking they’re way more than an hour away from Athens.
Tiny Agkistri is known for its lush greenery and the magnificence of its long sandy beach that highlights the beauty of the Saronic Gulf, while Poros offers its visitor the opportunity to smell the enticing smell that comes off of its famous lemon forest that blooms during spring.
Here is a complete guide of all the Saronic Islands to help you with your choice. Of course, if you feel like it, they’re all so close to one another that you can get away with touring all of them on the same trip to Greece; island-hopping is highly recommended. Who wants to visit just one island and not a whole island chain anyway?
Aegina, Argo Saronic islands, Greece - credits: leoks/Shutterstock.com
Aegina is the largest of the most favored of the Saronic Gulf islands and a top destination for both locals and tourists due to its location at a very short distance from Athens, namely around 40 minutes by speed boat.
By now, it should come as no surprise that following the theme of all Greek islands, Aegina island has many natural beauties and rich history.
A fun fact is that Aegina was the temporary capital of Greece after the greek evolution. Its fascinating past can be demonstrated to anyone who visits Aegina’s well-known archaeological sites such as the famous Temple of Aphaia Athena and the ruins of the ancient site of the Temple of Apollo, of which today only one column has been preserved.
From the Temple of Aphaia, you will also have the opportunity to enjoy panoramic views and romantic sunsets.
Although Aegina island -and the Saronic Gulf in general- may not be known for its gorgeous beaches, there are a few that are worth visiting, where you can lay on your back enjoying a coffee or a cocktail and listening to the waves crash on the sandy shore. The most popular beaches include the beach of Marathona, Vagia, and Agia Marina, with the latter attracting the youngest ad hippest crowds.
Due to the aforementioned close proximity to Athens, unlike most Greek islands, Aegina is a destination that can be enjoyed all year round. However, if you plan on visiting it during the winter, it’d be wiser for you to stick to a weekend as this is when Aegina island gets some life breathed into it for all the Athenians that escape to it for a short getaway.
During the summer months, Aegina is full of tourists -both from abroad and from other regions of Greece- who come to enjoy its relaxing vibe, so if you want to visit the Temple of Aphaia or any of its other popular attractions make sure to do so early in the morning.
The main town of Aegina is the main port where the majority of tourists arrive. Arriving at the port of Aegina, you will see the beautiful picturesque marina and the traditional houses (most of which operate as holiday homes) and buildings located near the sea.
In the port of Aegina, you will also find the local buses which will take you to different parts of Aegina if you do not have your own means of transport. There is also a taxi station near the dock, as well as a water taxi station for emergencies.
Additionally, some other parts that are worth spending your time on are Agia Marina, Souvala, and the fishing village of Perdika, the last of which will give you the opportunity to taste fish and seafood in one of the many restaurants in its picturesque little port that looks out to the Saronic Gulf and the neighboring island of Agistri.
Don’t let the incredibly easy accessibility fool you; there is more to Aegina than meets the eye, and although it should feel like an extension of Athens, it feels far from it. It feels like an ideal destination anyone would be lucky to explore!
Agistri, Saronic islands, Greece - credits: Aerial-motion/Shutterstock.com
Within a very short distance from Aegina, around 10 minutes to be exact, which offers a great opportunity for you to island-hop, is the beautiful Agistri. It is a lusciously vegetated destination in the Saronic Gulf ideal for a day trip from Aegina or Athens that offers a deep breath of fresh air to everyone looking to escape the big cities.
Although small in size, Agistri is infinite in beauty. On Agistri, there are many scattered beaches where you can cool off during the hot summer months. The island has two ports, Skala and Mylos. The main port is Skala, where many visitors arrive. As soon as your foot touches the ground of Agistri, you can see the traditional white church at the pier and the beautiful beach that stretches there.
Agistri, Greece - credits: pixabay.com
Along the beach, you will find many coffee bars where you can enjoy your drink by the sea. Many of these cafes have sunbeds and umbrellas for customers who wish to order their drinks on the beach. There is also a large selection of restaurants and taverns serving delicious delicacies and fresh fish.
Anyone who arrives on Agistri island immediately understands why it is considered the hidden jewel of the Saronic islands. It is a place that offers peace, relaxation, and carefree holidays away from the stress of everyday life. The island's beaches are ideal for all visitors while the shallow, crystal clear waters in some parts of the sea offer a safe resort for families with children.
What’s more, Agistri island has several tourist accommodations such as hotels, rooms to let, and apartments which operate mainly from May to October, while there are some that are open all year round. Regardless, we would suggest you visit it during the summer months, as it is then that it can be experienced in its full potential!
Agistri is a traditional island that has not yet been affected by the intense cosmopolitan life that can be found elsewhere in the Greek islands. It has managed to retain its magic and charm and it is waiting for you to take advantage of that!
Hydra, Saronic islands, Greece - credits: S-F/Shutterstock.com
The beautiful island of Hydra is a small island located a breath away from the coast of Argolida in the Peloponnese and around two hours from the Port of Piraeus in Athens.
Hydra is an island of unique beauty surrounded by a wonderful natural landscape. The city of Hydra is built amphitheatrically around the port and everywhere a wonderful combination of gray and white of the area with the enchanting blue of the sea prevails; it is no coincidence that Hydra is famous for its traditional houses but also for a unique architecture of its buildings that make it look like a fishing village.
What makes Hydra island stand out the most, however, is the absence of cars on the island. Transportation in the city is done by donkeys or by boats that will take you around the various beaches.
This tradition has been preserved to this day in order to make visitors feel that they travel back in time. It is however also extremely convenient as one doesn’t need to worry about renting a vehicle and driving on unknown streets. Not to mention the added bonus of partying at night without having to be responsible for the way home!
Every day the port of Hydra receives many vacationers as they constantly anchor yachts and cruise ships from everywhere. Due to the fact that the island is internationally known for its beauty, it presents a cosmopolitan atmosphere and intense nightlife.
Hydra, Greece - credits: pixabay.com
Crossing the cobblestone paths of the island, you will have the opportunity to admire the beautiful stone houses with the blossoming courtyards and the colorful flowers that spread an intoxicating aroma everywhere.
Although a small island, Hydra lacks none of either the beauty or hospitality of the other Greek islands, while it is also an extremely diverse holiday destination perfect for both those who are looking for a more relaxed experience and for those seeking out the famous Greek island nightlife!
If you visit Hydra town, don’t forget to walk around its scenic port, a venture that is so simple yet so unique. Reaching the hill above the port you can gaze at the sea and enjoy unforgettable sunsets. It is also worth visiting and getting to know the religious history of the place just from an architectural and historical perspective alone as there are about 300 small churches and 6 monasteries scattered throughout Hydra.
Of course, you cant leave Hydra before visiting the fascinating Historical Archives Museum of Hydra to get to know the island's political Greek history.
Hydra’s most beautiful beaches include Spilia, Hydroneta, Avlaki, Kamini, and Vlychos, but the sheer beauty of the island is not restricted to its beaches. Just a visit, will make you see why if you visit Hydra once, you’re bound to visit it again!
Poros, Saronic islands, Greece - credits: S.Borisov/Shutterstock.com
The beautiful Poros has a ferry connection with Athens' Piraeus port and Galata in the Peloponnese region. Although it is a very popular destination for Greeks, it also attracts many visitors from all over the world, who come to the island in order to escape the daily stress of the city and enjoy the tranquility of the area.
Poros island is also suitable for a day trip or a weekend getaway if you want a short break from everyday life. Once you arrive at the port of Poros, you will see the huge clock which dominates imposingly and stands out among the rest of the scenery. You can visit the clock to take souvenir photos all over the island and enjoy the wonderful panoramic view across the Saronic Gulf.
Poros, Greece - credits: pixabay.com
Walking on the island you can admire the huge pine trees that spread everywhere and the traditional houses that are built amphitheatrically. This picturesque setting is complemented by the famous ‘Lemon Forest’ which is a small natural paradise famous for its mind-blowing aroma, especially during the spring.
Those who love hiking can visit the Lemon Forest which stretches east of the main city of the island. Walking among the lemon and orange trees you will find a picturesque watermill and a waterfall that complete the enchanting scenery of nature.
Like all Greek islands that respect themselves, Poros island has some sandy beaches where you can enjoy the sun and the sea. Our top picks include Little Neorio, Grand Neorio, the Canal, Perlia, Askeli Beach, Vagonia, and the small picturesque Love Bay and the Naval Station.
Many of the beaches are secluded and surrounded by lush pine forests where you can relax and unwind, while -as its name suggests- Love Bay is perfect for a romantic dive.
Poros island has an excellently organized tourist infrastructure, with all kinds of accommodation such as rooms, apartments, and studios. There are also many taverns and restaurants where you can enjoy delicious local dishes as well as several bars and cafes for an intense nightlife that will help you remember the carefree days of your early adulthood.
Spetses, Saronic islands, Saronic gulf, Greece - credits: Konstantin Sokolov1973/Shuttestock.com
Spetses is the southernmost of the Saronic islands and is located very close to Argolida, in the Peloponnese region. It is a striking island that attracts many visitors and is one of the favorite destinations of Greeks for their summer holidays.
The historic square of the island, the impressive neoclassical mansions, and the absence of cars give Spetses island a unique charm. The city of Spetses has successfully maintained, until today, its traditional character and is considered a protected settlement, with many of its traditional mansions, serving as museums.
The island is of great historical importance. The port is called Dapia and in the historic square of the city, the famous cannons from the Greek War of Independence stand out. Additionally, in the beautiful Poseidon Square, where the famous Poseidonion Grand Hotel is located, stands the statue of Laskarina Bouboulina, known for her contribution to the struggle for Greeks’ liberation from the Turkish. If you want to look further into this important Greek figure, you can visit the Bouboulina Museum.
On the island, there are many cafes, beach bars, clubs, restaurants, and taverns where guests can taste wonderful local delicacies and refreshing drinks. Do not forget to try the stuffed rooster and the famous local dish ‘fish a la spetsiota’, both of which will be treats to your senses.
Spetses, Greece - credits: pixabay.com
The island is famous for the quiet atmosphere it offers, mainly due to the absence of cars. Only motorbikes and traditional horse-lead carriages are available on the island to transport people to different places, which is something you won't come across on any Greek mainland destinations.
If you decide to visit Spetses island in September, you will have the opportunity to attend many cultural events organized on the island at that time. The most important is the representation of the arson of the Turkish flagship, on September 8, 1822, which is celebrated in memory of the naval battle of Spetses with the Turks.
You can access the island from Pireus port, or from the region of Kosta by water taxis that take about 10 minutes to take you across.
Salamis, Greece - credits: Aerial-motion/Shutterstock.com
Salamina is the largest of the Saronic islands and the closest to the shores of Attica. It is located in the northwestern part of the Saronic Gulf and opposite the Gulf of Elefsina. It is one of the most historic places in Greece. Indicatively, the island became an inspiration for the stage philosopher Euripides, but also the last stop for Karaiskakis and other fighters of 1821.
For those who want to discover it, the island hides many surprises. You will reach Salamina from Perama. The local ferry line will bring you to Palukia, the busy port of Salamina. The ferry schedules operate approximately every 15 minutes while the line operates 24 hours a day. If you just want
For those who don't know, Salamina is the most populated island in not only the Saronic Gulf islands, but in Greece, due to its connection with the Greek capital. In essence, Salamina is an island suburb of Piraeus, which, from the Spring onwards, receives crowds of excursionists thirsty for an escape, even nearby, every weekend.
Thousands of people bathe in the bay, but the best and cleanest option is the southern beaches. On the road that connects Aianteio with Kaki Vigla turn towards Peristeria: all along the route and up to Saterli you will find small and larger beaches that usually have a taverna or even a beach bar.
In Peristeria, you can go up to the Cave of Euripides, while a little further down is the centuries-old preserved stone lighthouse and in Kolones rises the recently restored circular burial monument of the 4th century BC. which as children we thought was the palace of Aedes.
The road that leads to the beach at Kanakia starts from Aianteio, crossing a really wonderful pine forest, the largest in western Attica. In Kanakia, the excavation of a Mycenaean palace complex identified with the kingdom of Aedes is underway – you can take a look outside the enclosure.
The important archaeological findings of the island are gathered in the Archaeological Museum housed in the 1st Kapodistrian Primary School of Salamina. If you visit it, it means that you have arrived at Akti Karaiskakis, the main beach, teeming with ouzo bars with tables on the pier that you should not pass by.
The beach of Agios Nikolaos is right after – here you will come for a coffee and a drink under the pine forest, while towards Aianteio the heart of the nightlife beats. The pine forests will truly steal your breath.
It is worth a stop at the post-Byzantine monastery of Agios Nikolaos Lemonion. If, again, you are interested in visiting churches and monasteries, we have some of them: on the way to Kanakia it is worth a stop at the post-Byzantine monastery of Agios Nikolaos Lemonion, while in the center of the city is the Agios Dimitrios from 1806, where you will see the tomb of Georgios Karaiskakis, the Despotic Throne and the Pulpit, which are the works of Giannoulis Halepas, and eight large paintings by the Salamis painter Polychronis Lebesi.
The Monastery of Faneromenis, however, is the undisputed star of the island, which celebrates with a super-production festival on August 23: it was founded in 1682 by Saint Laurentius, it has excellent hagiographies by Georgios Markos (1735), and during the Greek War of Independence, it functioned as a hospital, a meeting place for chieftains and a refuge for civilians, as the Turks never conquered it.
Opposite the monastery, on the seashore, is the modest country house of Greek writer Aggelos Sikelianos who loved Salamina and its peace
Aegina, Greece - credits: pixabay.com
You need neither an incredibly rich budget nor a month-long vacation to enjoy the Greek islands to their full potential.
With the Saronic islands on the table, enjoying an authentic Greek holiday on the islands is easier than ever. Mainland destinations are great, and all, but nothing compares to the Greek islands, even if you just visit them on day trips.
Don’t let the short distance of the Saronic Gulf fool you. They may be located on the northeastern coasts of Athens, but each and every one of the Saronic islands will make you forget you’re only a breath away from the hustle and bustle of the Greek capital.
Incredible beaches, with beach bars or without, scenic landscapes, and the unmistakable Greek islands' aesthetic will follow you wherever you choose to go!